June 19, 2006

World Cup madness

Posted in Sports at 6:06 pm by Calico Jack

(Some player trying to run up the side of the picture so he can kick the ball. Courtesy BBC.)

When I was little, I used to love to play soccer. Some of my earliest memories are of kicking a soccer ball with my dad on Saturday afternoons. As I got older, I played quite a few neighborhood pickup games (or should that be kickup?); but I never joined a soccer team, much to the consternation of my mother. Still, I greatly enjoyed the sport, and it was always my favorite game to play during P.E. I never considered myself anything more than decent; my dribbling and passing skills were good, but woe to those who let me try for a goal kick. Even now, years later, I'll gladly jump in to play a friendly game. Although I still enjoy soccer, I never developed a love for the sport as I did for volleyball and baseball.

However, I wouldn't blink an eye if soccer were banned from television. Permanently.

The World Cup has descended upon us, and almost every country save the U.S. is earnestly cheering on their national team. For some, the World Cup is quite literally an obsession; simply witness the rioting taking place all around the world as soccer hooligans express their joy/sorrow/anger/drunkenness by trashing everything around them. Compared to most of Europe, we Americans are extremely placid about the most popular sporting event in the world.

And I ask: Why wouldn't we be? As a televised sport, soccer is extremely boring. I often hear criticisms leveled at baseball: it's too boring, the players aren't really athletes, or the games run too long. I don't deny that baseball is immune from criticism, nor do I say that soccer shouldn't be considered a sport. But for crying out loud, baseball is much more consistently entertaining to watch than soccer will ever be. Soccer may be a "pure" sport, but who really cares? I've watched my fair share of televised soccer matches, and 80% of the time the ball stays in the midfield while the players from both teams perform their patented jog/walk back and forth, as the goalie reads a book or takes a nap or whatever it is that he does while he's waiting for the ball to get closer than a hundred feet from him. You could loop the first ten minutes of the match, and no one would be the wiser.

And while I'm on the subject of soccer itself, why would anyone ever think that it's okay to end a game with a tie? What do people think when two teams run out of time? "Oh, don't worry; we're both winners!" Competitive sports should not have ties- ever. That's simply unacceptable. Ties should be something players wear around their neck when going to parties, not sought-after conclusions to games. Part of the problem is that soccer runs on a clock, as do many sports. But unlike American football or hockey or basketball, overtime could easily run as long as the game itself. I never understood why FIFA didn't mandate shootouts for all tied games; as it stands, only some competitions require this. The World Cup isn't one of them.

The World Cup also has a really weird way of determining the standings for the team brackets. A well-written summary of the United States' chances can be found here; but good luck figuring out why the U.S. needs to be Ghana by more than four points if Italy loses or draws to the Czech Republic. On second thought, has anyone even seen a soccer game where a team scored four points? A game where both teams together scored four points? I think not.

I do feel sorry for those ardent fans of soccer who futilely try to get the rest of the United States to care about "The World's Sport." I just can't bring myself to care enough. However, if a miracle happens and the United States happens to win the World Cup, I'll be cheering as loudly as the rest of the country because that is what Americans do. We don't care about a sport until our national team wins; then we become the biggest fans ever in an attempt to make up for our previous lack of enthusiasm. Witness the Olympics.

Until the United States wins the World Cup, however, I'll be watching football- American football, that is.


  1. Shay said,

    When you refer to football and ties..I don’t believe the NFL allows ties in regards to a team v team game don’t they just goes into overtime? they do have standings ties which are broken through a set of rules, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about…or are you refering to football as soccer?

  2. Calico Jack said,

    Yes, but I can see how calling soccer by its “proper” name can cause quite a bit of confusion, so I’ve changed all refrences to football back to soccer. Sorry about the mixup. 🙂

  3. Tara said,

    I agree that soccer is very boring. My favorite part of the post is about America’s fake interest in some of the boring sports until our team wins. I disagree about the ties. I agree that ties are unacceptable in competitive sports but I see nothing wrong with having a long conclusion to the game. It tests the players endurance. The team that doesn’t make the mistake will win. A long OT will show the true winner of the game.

  4. Jon said,

    American football (NFL that is) does allow ties after multiple overtimes (which are sudden death). In this event each team gets half a win on their record. To the best of my knowledge this has never happened since 1932.

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